Signs of the Times

Women Foundation Heads Meet With Vatican Officials

A group of U.S. and European Catholic lay women representing their family foundations traveled to Rome last month to discuss the role of women in the church with leading Vatican officials. Representatives of the Amaturo Family Foundation, the Mary J. Donnelly Foundation, the Fidel Goetz Foundation, the Loyola Foundation and the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities met with five cardinals: Walter Kasper of the Council on Christian Unity, William J. Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Renato Martino of the Council for Justice and Peace, Giovanni Battista Re of the Congregation for Bishops, and Jean-Louis Tauran of the Council on Interreligious Dialogue, as well as other key officials of those dicasteries. They also met with Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi and other top officials of the Council for Culture; Dr. Rocio Figueroa, the head of the womens section at the Council on the Laity; Monsignor Pietro Parolin, the under secretary of state for relations with states; and Federico Lombardi, S.J., the general director of Vatican Radio and the Vatican press secretary.

In each meeting of extended, substantive and cordial conversation, the women expressed their support for the stated desire of Pope Benedict XVI and Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to elevate more women to positions of leadership in the church. They voiced their concerns regarding the disconnect experienced by many Catholic women who value the churchs promotion of womens dignity and rights in the secular sphere, and yet see the limited opportunities women have to offer their talents to the church in leadership positions. The group expressed the need for the promotion of an internal church culture that places high value on the leadership and gifts of women. Appreciative of the warm reception they received in Rome, the women plan to pursue options for collaboration with Vatican departments to advance the role of women in the church.


The meetings were organized by Chantal Goetz of the Fidel Goetz Foundation, which is based in Lichtenstein. She and the other women are longtime colleagues through their membership in Fadica (Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities), a consortium of some 50 family foundations engaged in Catholic philanthropy. During their visit to Rome, one member of the delegation, Kerry Robinson of the Raskob Foundation, was interviewed on Vatican Radio. Her Oct. 19 interview, entitled Women of Faith, is available on the Vatican Radio Web site.

Call Reaffirmed for End of Death Penalty and Torture

Christians must work for the abolition of the death penalty and all forms of torture, said Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Christians are called to cooperate for the defense of human rights and for the abolition of the death penalty, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment both in wartime and in times of peace, the cardinal said. These practices are grave crimes against the human person created in the image of God and a scandal for the human family in the 21st century, he said. In an Oct. 30 press release, the cardinals office said he made his statements during a meeting with Sylvie Bukhari-de Pontual, president of the International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture. The Rome-based Community or SantEgidio and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty announced Oct. 30 that they would present to the president of the U.N. General Assembly five million signatures on a petition calling for a worldwide moratorium on capital executions.

Public Activism Must Become More Focused

Catholics involved in the public square must above all follow the principles of the common good, though that is a countercultural approach in both politics and contemporary American life, said the chairman of the department of politics at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Speaking on Oct. 30 to a gathering of the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Stephen Schneck, who also heads the universitys Life Cycle Institute, a public policy research program, outlined a five-step agenda for bringing a common good agenda to American public policy. The foundation for Catholic thinking about politics, governance and policy is the idea of the common good, Schneck said. But that is a hard notion for contemporary Americans to understand. And the momentum in American politics is one accelerating [away] from anything like the common good, he said. Lets remember that ours is a politics where citizens are encouragedafter a terrorist attackto go shopping.

Franciscans to Close Nazareth Grotto for Work

The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which coordinates Christian pilgrimage sites, will close the grotto of the Basilica of the Annunciation for four months for conservation work on the grottos rock. The work will begin Nov. 10 at the grotto in the basilicas lower church in Nazareth, Israel.

There is a constant flow of people walking past the grotto as there [are] a lot of people coming to Israel now, and most of those people go inside the grotto, and that creates a serious problem, said Brother Ricardo Bustos, the Franciscan superior of the convent of the Most Holy Annunciation at the basilica. The rock of the grotto is very fragile, he said, and even the temperature change within the grotto caused by visitors body heat is damaging the rock. Besides, many people touch the rock, Brother Bustos told Catholic News Service. Some people, seeing that the rock is crumbling, help themselves to a chip to take the grotto home with them, he said, adding that flash photography is also extremely harmful. Last year a team of experts from Italian universities in Milan, Pisa and Turin began analysis work on the site. The experts said the site must be closed to measure accurately the atmospheric conditions inside the grotto, said Brother Bustos. Depending on the work that needs to be undertaken to strengthen the rock, Franciscans hope that the grotto will be able to be open in time for the feast of the Annunciation, on March 25, he said.

Cardinal-Designate Installed in Nairobi

Hundreds of people, including Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, jammed Holy Family Minor Basilica for the installation of Cardinal-designate John Njue, 63, as head of the Archdiocese of Nairobi. The former coadjutor archbishop of Nyeri, who will be made a cardinal Nov. 24 at the Vatican, replaces Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwanaa Nzeki, who retired Oct. 6 after leading the archdiocese for 10 years. Archbishop Alain Lebeaupin, the apostolic nuncio to Kenya who presided at the installation, urged local Catholics of various ethnic backgrounds to cooperate with the newly installed archbishop. The nuncio told the cardinal-designate, You have not been installed for the Catholic faithful only, but for the entire people who happen to be within your pastoral jurisdiction. In his homily, Cardinal-designate Njue appealed to all Catholics to help him with his pastoral duties. I will count on you as you count on me, he said. With Gods guidance, I will do my best.

Olympics in China Should Promote Rights, Peace

A Vatican official said he hoped the 2008 Olympic Games in China would help promote international peace and respect for human rights. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, addressing the U.N. General Assembly Oct. 31, said the Vatican views the Olympics as an important moment of dialogue that can help countries bridge political and other differences. Dialogue and encounter through sport hold great potential in the area of peacebuilding and conflict prevention, said Archbishop Migliore, the Vaticans permanent observer to the United Nations. While the rule of law and justice remain the foundation of durable peace, sport provides the tool for warring factions to come together for a common purpose, he said. The archbishop noted that Beijing will host the 2008 games, and that the world is already preparing for the event. He said one lesson of the Olympics is that the important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle.

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